The Telltale Signs That There’s A Problem With Your Car

Written by a Guest Blogger

When you’ve had your car for years, you can feel when something’s not right. You know your car almost as well as you know your own body. You’ll notice that small change in driving dynamic. You’ll recognise a new sound or a particular feeling that wasn’t there before. In most cases, these are signs that something’s wrong. Or at the very least, on its way to going wrong. Trust your gut instinct when it comes to your car. If it doesn’t feel right, take it into the garage.

When it comes to diagnosing the problem, use your senses. Smells, sounds and the feeling of driving are the key indicators that something is wrong. If you sense that something is amiss, take a deeper look. We’ve pulled together the main list of troubles you’re likely to find for your convenience. If you notice any of these, don’t hesitate. Take your car straight to the garage and have it checked out. Any small problem can develop into something bigger. It could turn out to be much more expensive if you don’t seek help immediately.

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You’re burning through petrol fast

When you’ve been driving your car for a while, you get a feel for its petrol capacity. You know roughly how many miles you get to the gallon, both on the motorway and around town. You know how often you generally fill up and how fast that fuel meter goes down. If you’re starting to notice a big change, then chances are something’s wrong. If you’re suddenly getting terrible gas mileage, it’s time to investigate. If your car is burning through fuel it means the engine is having to work too hard. It could be a by-product of many engine problems. Take it straight to the garage and have it checked out.

Strange tyre wear

Your tyres can tell you a lot about your car and its health. Get into the habit of checking them every other time you fuel up. It will help keep the tyres in check and you’ll notice anything strange. The first thing you’ll notice is the tread wear. If the wear is all centred down the middle, it’s a sure sign your tyres are over-inflated. If the wear is mainly on the outsides, the tyres are under-inflated. Car dealerships like Inchcape Lexus always sell their cars with a recommended tyre pressure. There is a reason for this. Your car performs at its best when the tyres are at the correct pressure. You’ll drive safer and the engine will work most efficiently at this level.

The final thing to look for in your tyres is feathering. This is uneven wear across the thread of the tyres. You’ll get a better sense of this if you feel along the tyre itself. Generally, this indicates a problem with the alignment and could point to your bearings. If you’re unsure how to diagnose this one, take it into your local garage.

Your car engine light is flashing

This one is an easy one! You certainly shouldn’t be ignoring the flashing warning lights that pop up on your dashboard. In most cases they indicate the problem. It could be a low oil level or overheating problem. The engine may have a triggered a small issue somewhere. Low oil and overheating can be easily treated. Simply change the oil or top it up. For overheating problems, make sure your coolant is nice and high. Unless you have some skill as a mechanic, the engine light suggests a deeper problem. It will be the early stages of a major issue. Get it seen to as soon as possible.

There’s a knocking sound from the engine

You should always be using your ears while driving. When mechanical parts begin to suffer, they each have a tell tale sound. Knocking is a sure sign of engine problems. They could be small detonations inside the combustion engine. You don’t need me to tell you that this isn’t ideal! When it comes to engine issues like this, it’s best left to the professionals.

You can hear a squealing sound

Another telltale sign of problems is a squealing sound. This could be indicate a couple of issues depending on the source of the sound. If it sounds like it’s coming from inside the engine, what you’re hearing is the fan belts. When they begin to wear down, crack or loosen, the make a high pitched squealing sound. You can actually repair or replace these fairly easily yourself. If it sounds like it’s coming from the wheels, then it’s typically a braking problem. If you feel confident, you can take the wheels off and take a look at the brake pads. They may well be worn down. If you can’t diagnose it yourself, stop by your local garage.

Your car drifts towards another lane

As you would expect, drifting suggests a problem with your alignment or steering. If you straighten the wheel and take your hands off for a second, the car should go straight. If it immediately veers off towards another lane, there’s a problem. Some alignment issues can be solved yourself with a little know-how. If the drifting occurs while braking, then the issue may be in your calipers, not the alignment. If you think something is wrong, look at the tread on your tyres to help diagnose the issue.

Your engine spends ages turning over before starting

There are plenty of mechanical systems involved in the starting motor. If it’s turning over, then your battery is fine. If it starts eventually, then the alternator and starter motor are okay. If it’s turning over for a long time, your problem lies in a faulty spark plug, fuel pump or distributor. Start by replacing the spark plugs and go on to investigate the fuel pump.

Finally, use your nose. If there are burning smells coming from the engine, you can bet there’s a problem. It could be an oil leak or one of the other fluids escaping. Trust your instinct when it comes to your car. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Get it fixed before it turns into a much bigger issue.

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Auto Upkeep 4th Edition

Michael Gray

Mike has roots in the automotive service industry. He began diagnosing and fixing cars at a young age in his family’s service station. He has worked in automotive parts supply stores, towing companies, and service facilities. After graduating from St. Cloud State University (MN) with a Bachelor’s degree, he implemented and taught a basic car care program at the high school level. During work on his Master’s degree at Illinois State University (IL), he was a curriculum specialist on a National Science Foundation project where he co-authored ten integrated mathematics, science, and technology books designed for team teaching. Mike has also supervised teachers in Career and Technology Education as a school system administrator.

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